We were poor
dirt poor
but, my mother did the best
she could with what she had to
feed six kids and two adults.

I loved her cooking.

Taught by her mother before her
they all ate cheap and cheerful meals
which prevented going hungry
during the second world war
when food was severely rationed.

She made meals that seemed to
come from nowhere
probably took her hours to prepare
(if I had paid it any attention)

Curious once
I remarked that she didn’t ever
follow a recipe like the cooks
on TV shows so, how did she know
how much of this or that to use
she replied:
“Oh, I don’t need a recipe, I just
throw it all in and don’t even
think about it.”

And yet, what she made was
always such a delight.

She made bread pudding
from stale bread with fruit
and lots of sweet spices
topped with sugar.
Served with custard, it was all so yummy
and as soon as it appeared
it disappeared.

She made Roly Poly Pudding
filled with strawberry jam
or, for dinner
she’d make bacon and onion pudding
both of these she’d prepare and
shape just like a really thick
rolling pin
she’d wrap them into a clean
white rag to sit inside a pot to steam
(No fancy pots and pans back then)
and after supper when our tummy’s
were full
sometimes later my step-father would
be heard to say:

“I can’t find my white shirt
the one with the white buttons on it.
You know the one I mean Shelia?”

(the shirt stealing cook)
had struck again.


© Daydreamertoo *all rights reserved

Created as cheap meals both long before and, during WW2 as a way of feeding lower working class folks and those who were poor, all of these recipes are really old but still so well loved, mainly in England. Even today they’ve been handed down to new young cooks and yes, my mum did used to cut up my step-father’s white shirts (minus the buttons) to make the puddings… much to his annoyance!   LOL

Bacon & Onion Pudding How it’s made

Shared with dVersePoets Poetics: Button Button

Author: Daydreamer

I live on a beautiful island in Atlantic Canada.

25 thoughts on “Shirtless”

  1. Dirt poor and committed she fed you the shirt off dad’s back–
    I’ve never had these puddings, but I have jeard the stories of bread made of sawdust, etc. Thanks for giving to us as a story we could picture and almost taste.

  2. Cwooo ypou made me hungry! I lived a fair while with my nain who was a stoic worl war two cook, jam puddings, dripping, and she lived to the grand old age of 94. Brilliant trip down memory lane here!

  3. This is lovely, beautiful. It reminded of my mom and the stories she told of my great grandmother trying to feed 11 kids. My mom got many of the recipes she cooked from g-mom, like macaroni soup, chicken pot pie (not the kind they sell in the stores, believe me), sow belly, etc. This is a great narrative you have put up, with a glorious ending! Thank you.

  4. This is lovely – such a wonderful response to the prompt and so human and sweet (and informative.) I am sure the shirt probably had some issues! Anyway, thanks much. k.

  5. such a nice warm tale. very vivid and filled with wonderful images of childhoood and kitchens. I enjoyed this very much.

  6. Heheh, loved the last bit. She’s a mastercook as she doesn’t need any recipe book or measures. All the skills practiced into instinct.

    Enjoyed this poem very much.

  7. I could relate completely to this. I remember how my mum and grandma made meals “that seemed to come from nowhere”, not just because we were poor, but because the ingredients were not available. Yet even now I’d love to go back to some of those simple meals.

  8. I always enjoy this type of reflection, you created the imagery and memory so well…one can almost smell the aroma…lovely ~ Rose

  9. If all else fails use a shirt, the cat will remember that. Yeah having the skimp by happens to many but who wants to eat with foods like spotted gone right there.

  10. We didn’thave much either, but we always had plenty to eat. Now, my mom wasn’t a great cook back in those days, but she did alright.

  11. Oh I love bread pudding. Have used it to fill hungry kid tummies myself……….I so enjoyed this write, Bren…….amusing about the disappearing white shirts.

  12. Your post made me hungry, especially for bread pudding, Bren. Just love bread pudding, and it is so hard to find somewhere that makes a good one. Hmmmm, one would think that cut-up white shirts would increase the price of the meal quite a bit though?? Love old traditions, old recipes. (And my mother seldom used recipe books either!)

  13. oh nice..really enjoyed this.. there’s so much warmth and care in feeding and cooking for a family..and the part with the shirt made me must make sacrifices for a decent pudding…smiles

  14. smiles…ha…she used his shirt to cook with…when i lived on my own the year before marriage and scrimping every penny i learned a few things to make it work cheap…cool though she could always make it taste good….smiles….fresh take bren…

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